Heroic Tales of the Three Kingdoms Pt. 1
THE TYRANNY OF THE YELLOW TURBAN REBELS AND DONG ZHUO
At the end of the Second Century, China was shadowed in an ominous cloud of deceit, treachery and natural disaster. For the second time in history, the Han line ruled the empire. In the capital sat Emperor Ling, a man indulgent with the eunuchs who had raised him. Outside the palace, the peasants suffered in poverty due to harsh taxation. An epidemic afflicted the people as well, but out of the chaos emerged Zhang Jiao, a wandering magician who swore to rescue the people. His worshipers donned yellow turbans and followed him in an assault on the capital - the Yellow Turban Rebellion.
The Yellow Turban rebels numbered 360.000 strong, perhaps more. Zhang Jiao led them across the northern territories, pillaging and wreaking havoc. Eventually reaching the capital of Luoyang, they stormed into the palace and took revenge on the eunuchs by burning them to death. Emperor Ling desperately pleaded with General He Jin, an imperial relative, to round up an opposition. Immediately, a call went out for volunteers to defend the throne.
At this time, three men had sworn an oath of brotherhood in an expression of their aim to fight for the preservation of Han. They were Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. He Jin recruited them to lead the opposition against the Yellow Turban rebels. It was not long before Zhang Jiao's rebels dispersed in the midst of such a daunting opposition. Among other renown men who added to the defense were Cao Cao, Dong Zhuo and Sun Jian.
In the brief time it took to suppress the rioters, Emperor Ling passed away and young Bian/Pien succeed to the throne. His ascension caused further strife at court over the rightful heir. Emperor Ling had two sons by two concubines, one of whom was He Jin's sister and had given birth to Bian. The other son was Xian/Hsien, and the eunuchs fought for his right to the throne. Nevertheless, Bian was crowned and a feud ensued. He Jin and Yuan Shao began secretly plotting against Zhang Rang and the other eunuchs who had influence at court. They sought out Dong Zhuo's aid. However, as He Jin had enemies within the palace, the scheme soon leaked out and he was murdered. Reacting for the sake of the Han Dynasty, Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu saw to the mass murder of over two thousand palace eunuchs and their families.
The violence and confusion gave Dong Zhuo the perfect opportunity to seize the reins of power in Luoyang. Although he had played an uneventful role during the Yellow Turban Rebellion and the massacre of the eunuchs, he swiftly maneuvered himself into power.
Emperor Bian and Prince Xian fled during the turmoil and were found by Dong Zhuo safely sheltered on a farm. By escorting them safely back to the palace, he won his way into Luoyang. However, his troops were soon a threat to all. Ding Yuan met Dong Zhuo's wrath when he tried to bring him down from power. Dong Zhuo had Lu Bu assassinate him. As a reward, Lu Bu received the Red Hare, a magnificent red horse that could outrun any other. Defiantly, Dong Zhuo moved Xian into the 'dragon's seat' as emperor, and sent Bian and his mother to their deaths. Thus, Dong Zhuo had monopolized palace authority.
LEADERS UNITE AND GUAN YU IS SPURRED INTO ACTION
Cao Cao felt cheated when Dong Zhuo usurped control of the palace. As a result, he issued a written appeal to overthrow the tyrant. Many leaders from far-reaching states responded by turning their forces towards Luoyang in unison with Cao Cao.
Yuan Shao was elected to lead the coalition because of his popularity throughout the land. More importantly, he was a descendant of the Han line of old. Sun Jian volunteered to take the vanguard, and rode forth to alert their enemy of impending attack.
While the coalition came into being, Dong Zhuo was basking in the leisures of court life. Thus the news of an organized opposition came as a shock but not for long. He had one famous warrior, Hua Xiong, who swore he would destroy Sun Jian before he reached the capital. He rode out and railed on Sun Jian's troops until they fell in desperate need of supplies. Yet, because of rumors that Sun Jian was likely to betray their group once in the capital, Yuan Shu refused to send reserves. Sun Jian's weakened army was defeated with ease, and Hua Xiong kept on going towards Yuan Shao.
As much as he tried, Yuan Shao could not fend off Hua Xiong. He dispatched worthy soldiers only to be crushed each time. Finally, he learned of Guan Yu, a highly skilled swordsman among his allies. A swordsman to slay a barbarian? It seemed impossible. Cao Cao poured out a hot cup of wine to rouse his fighting spirit, but Guan Yu left the full cup and tore off to the challenge. Before long he rushed back into the camp and cast down the head of Hua Xiong, his wine was still warm.
Dong Zhuo developed new plans to divide his enemy in two directions. With one unit stationed at the River Si Pass, a second unit, led by his dedicated general Lu Bu, pressed on to Tigertrap Pass. The coalition dispatched the majority of their army to Tigertrap Pass and held back some reserves. Suddenly they clashed, Lu Bu sprang forth mounted on the Red Hare and waving his spear overhead. He was about to cut down Gongsun Zan when Zhang Fei burst forth and blocked his spear. When Liu Bei and Guan Yu joined in the battle, Lu Bu panicked and sped away on the Red Hare.
Dong Zhuo's battle spirit died down after Lu Bu's retreat. He took counsel with his advisor Li Ru to decide their next move. Li Ru urged him to move the capital to Changan, where they could defend themselves from safer ground. The news of a move stirred up emotions within the capital, but Dong Zhuo was determined to leave Luoyang. He had all people of Luoyang who opposed the new capital labeled as traitors and put to death. The Emperor was powerless to stop him, and to ilustrate his control, Dong Zhuo pillaged the imperial tombs and stripped the palace of all wealth. When he left, Dong Zhuo put the torch to the capital and burned it to the ground. Once the center of luxury and glory, Luoyang fell to ruin.
CONTENDING WARLORDS AND THE TREACHERY OF LU BU
The union of leaders against Dong Zhuo gradually broke apart. In their struggle to depose the tyrant personal interests emerged and clashed. And now in the aftermath of Dong Zhuo's move to Changan, they left Luoyang. One day, Sun Jian was mourning the fall of the emperor when he stumbled across the Hereditary Seal of the empire. It was an accidental discovery which plunged the alliance into further disarray. Although many leaders secretly desired the seal, they accused Sun Jian of using it for selfish means. Thus, the coalition dispersed amidst suspicion.
Dong Zhuo established himself nearby the new capital in Meiwu and gloated over the security of his position. The Changan area was surrounded by mountains and a system of rivers, making it a prime defensive position. He figured that if his luck went right, he would have complete control over the emperor from his own fort. Even if opposition rose up against him again, he was confident of his strong defense. Little did he know that things would turn sour between him and Lu Bu, whom he had accepted as a son.
Lu Bu grew to hate Dong Zhuo through the 'beauty scheme', devised by Governor Wang Yun, and played out by the beautiful maiden Diao Chan. When Lu Bu and Dong Zhuo each confessed to him that they loved the same woman, Wang Yun decided to use the situation to his advantage, he had plans to overthrow Dong Zhuo. He betrothed Diao Chan to Lu Bu, and arranged secret meetings between her and Dong Zhuo, hoping to drive the men apart out of jealousy.
When Lu Bu heard that Diao Chan was visiting Dong Zhuo he began spying on them from the shadows. Each time Diao Chan spotted him, she teased him with flirting glances from Dong Zhuo's arms, and he grew all the more anxious for her love. One day when Lu Bu was with her in the garden, Dong Zhuo caught them in an embrace and rushed at them, sword in hand. They escaped with their lives, but Lu Bu was still in danger.
to Wang Yun, swearing revenge on Dong Zhuo, but he feared their relationship
stood the way. "Your name is Lu, his is Dong." said Wang Yun. "Where
was the paternal feeling when he drew his sword on you?"
"You have helped me see the true state of things." agreed Lu Bu.
Consequently, Wang Yun won Lu Bu over to his side in a scheme to assassinate Dong Zhuo. He sent a messenger to Meiwu with a decree summoning Dong Zhuo to the palace for the emperor's abdication. Although he met many inauspicious signs along the way, Dong Zhuo dismissed them all. A broken carriage wheel, an ill-tempered horse, gathering strom clouds, an ill-boding song, all signs were interpreted to soothe his ears. Once he set foot inside the palace Wang Yun cried out. "The rebel is here!" Out sprang Lu Bu and with a swipe of his sword he beheaded Dong Zhuo.